Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad (pictured) got op-ed space in the LA Times. How does he write this with a straight face?
Because Hamas' political platform did not conform to key elements of the peace process, including Palestinian recognition of Israel's right to exist and a commitment to renounce violence, the international community imposed sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.
Although much of the discussion leading to the formation of the unity government has focused on these two commitments, their validity should not have been much in question. After all, these commitments were made by the Palestine Liberation Organization, the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, in a crystal-clear and binding agreement in 1993, and no Palestinian government has the authority to revoke them. In fact, the unity government's platform explicitly states that it will honor all PLO agreements, which, to be sure, include these two commitments.
2. Abbas' primary task as required by the road map was to dismantle the infrastructure of terror. Instead, Abbas asked Hamas to form a government.
3. The PLO isn't the "sole representative" of the Palestinian people. The overwhelming number of Palestinians voted for Hamas -- which never joined the more secular PLO. Even during the pre-Oslo years, the Tunisia-based PLO nearly faded into obscurity while Israel dealt with local Palestinians on the ground.
4. Mahmoud Abbas’ legitimacy stems from his position as popularly elected President of the Palestinian Authority. He was only chosen as PLO chairman by cadres of the member organizations after Yasser Arafat died. The Palestinians need democracy, and they also need to live with the consequences of their choice of votes. The PA is the democratic and legitimate representative of the Palestinians, who have elected Hamas -- warts and all.
Orly Azoulay reports from the Riyadh summit that leaders want Israel to pay a steep price for a "moderate Arab coalition" against Iran:
Diplomatic sources at the conference told me that behind the scenes the following move is being consolidated: The US has realized that it is losing its power due to its tendency for unilateralism towards Israel and has decided to get closer to Saudi Arabia so that it would consolidate a moderate Arab coalition.
However, just like in Washington, there are no free meals in Riyadh either: In order for the Saudis to enter this process, the Americans assured them that they would exert pressure on Israel to make difficult decisions and to reach a compromise that would enable the Palestinians to establish an independent state. Thus, the US would be granted a type of Arab umbrella for a diplomatic or military campaign against Iran, whereas Saudi Arabia would be able to boast before the Arab world that it had succeeded in bringing about an Israeli compromise.
Accompanying UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Orly Azoulay (pictured) became the first Israeli journalist to visit Saudi Arabia. Azoulay, the Washington bureau chief for Yediot Aharonot writes in YNet News that she's not just covering the Arab summit, she's actually part of the story:
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently engaged in promoting the Saudi peace initiative between Israel and the Arab states, wanted to convey a placating message: He believed that if he brought a joint delegation comprising Arab journalists and an Israeli media representative on the same plane, he would succeed in partially breaking the ice.
This is my only diplomatic achievement during the three months I have been in office, the secretary general told me with a broad smile on his face while on board the flight to Riyadh.
Earlier this week, the Saudis tried to bar Azoulay from entering the country. Her presence is a welcome development, but will the summit she's covering lead to a more meaningful achievement for Ban?
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch told off the world body's Human Rights Council. We raised issues with the council's hypocritical fixation with Israel. Don't miss the "outrage" of council president Luis Alfonso De Alba.
Steven Sugar and the BBC squared off yesterday in the UK’s High Court over the news service’s refusal to release the Balen report. See the Times of London’s coverage of the first day of the proceedings and The Independent's background.
All this puts Martin Rosenbaum of Open Secrets, a BBC blog dedicated to freedom of information issues, in an unusual predicament:
Commenters on this blog have sometimes in the past asked me for my views on the Balen Report, but as I have said before, since I have not read it I can't comment on its contents.
We're in the same boat. HonestReporting's FOI request was turned down by the BBC last year.
Barry Rubin thinks Condoleezza Rice is wasting her time dealing with Fatah. The Globe & Mail gave him op-ed space to explain why:
In the 15 months since then, Fatah has not made a single real reform, made any effort to combat its rampant corruption or brought younger dissidents into the leadership. Instead of articulating an alternative to the Hamas position, Fatah has simply tried to compete in proving how militant and willing to use violence it can be. This is a no-win strategy.
Last week, the Saudi-brokered agreement between Fatah and Hamas was implemented. Fatah has accepted a junior partnership with its Islamist rival on terms that reflect much of Fatah's world view but that are very different from the moderate image the group wants to build in the West. The new coalition does not accept all the agreements made in the past peace processes, including those that provide the basis for the Palestinian Authority's own existence and the international aid it receives.
The new government rejects Israel's existence and continues to embrace terrorism.
See Professor Judea Pearl's response to Professor Saree Makdisi on the international community's demand that Hamas accept Israel's right to exist:
Never in the history of nations has a society defined itself on the ruins of a neighboring democracy and never has such society sought sovereignty and international legitimacy while admitting its intent. Makdisi, for example, is not a bit embarrassed to argue for a Palestinian state on Israel's tomb while quoting from Orwell on language and morality.
The unique demand to recognize Israel's "right", not merely its "existence," reflects the general understanding among students of history that the core of the conflict and its resulting sufferings lies not in resource or border disputes, but in a deep ideological resistance by Palestinian Arabs to accommodate any form of a Jewish homeland in any part of Palestine since the end of World War I, accompanied by a persistent denial of any historical connection between the Jewish people and their national birthplace.
We hope developments in Ireland lead to a better situation. How long will it take for Hamas or Hezbollah apologists to draw silly comparisons between the Irish peace process and the Israeli-Arab conflict?
According to a Fatah leader identified only as Z., the Alan Johnston kidnapping is more complicated than we previously thought. In the middle of a report on Gaza anarchy, Haaretz writes:
Z. told Haaretz he believed the worst was yet to come. "Pretty soon there will be militants in each and every junction. Everybody knows who's holding Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent kidnapped two weeks ago. It's a large family, and they're after money. Instead of surrounding the premises and acting against them, the security forces are negotiating with them," he complains. "Breaking in their will cost lives, but there's no alternative. You have to move in with force to restore order."
What Z. doesn't say is that all the large organizations, Fatah included, are trying to dissuade the renowned family from joining the rival faction. Foreign journalists who have been kidnapped and then released by the family say they were treated in an especially demeaning manner. They go on to say that the Iraqi influence was obvious in the clothing of their captors, their language and their methods of handling prisoners, including forced conversions to Islam.
The BBC's options appear limited. Following last week's fiasco over an Italian journalist abducted by the Taliban, public opinion won't support negotiating with Johnston's captors. After years of sugarcoating Arab terror, will the BBC finally wake up?
The NY Times reports that Palestinian refugees are starting to reconsider the feasibility of the right of return. In 2003, pollster Khalil Shikaki learned the hard way that return is a hot button issue.
In the Washington Post, Daoud Kuttab argues that the new PA government already recognizes Israel:
For the first time in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, a majority of Palestinians, including the Islamists, are willing to accept a Palestinian state within the internationally acceptable borders of 1967. The implicit recognition of Israel in this is supported by clauses in agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel that included mutual recognition as well as respect for Arab and international resolutions and treaties. By demanding explicit recognition before negotiations can begin, Israel and others are being unreasonable.
Kuttab leaves four points unaddressed:
* The Hamas vision of “peace” is Palestinian sovereignty along the 1967 borders in exchange for a temporary period of calm.
* When Hamas refers to "occupation," it refers to all land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
* Nothing indicates that the Islamists have turned a corner. Sovereignty along the 1967 borders is a step in their phased plan to destroy Israel.
The Daily Mail reports that the BBC has so far spent £200,000 in legal fees to cover up the Balen report. Last year, London lawyer Steven Sugar filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the report, and the UK Information Tribunal ruled in his favor. The BBC is appealing to the UK’s High Court.
The corporation, which has itself made extensive use of FOI requests in its journalism, is refusing to release papers about an internal inquiry into whether its reporting has been biased towards Palestine.
BBC chiefs have been accused of wasting thousands of pounds of licence fee payers money trying to cover-up the findings of the so called Balen Report into its journalism in the region, despite the fact that the corporation is funded by the British public….
Politicians have branded the BBC's decision to carry on spending money, hiring the one of the country's top public law barrister in the process, as "absolutely indefensible".
They claim its publication is clearly in the public interest.
The BBC's determination to bury the report has led to speculation that the report was damning in its assessment of the BBC's coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict that the BBC wants to keep it under wraps at all costs.
The trial begins next week. The Balen report is named after Malcolm Balen, who wrote a report on the fairness of the BBC’s Mideast coverage in 2004. The report was never released to the public. Last year, the BBC turned down HonestReporting’s FOI request for a copy of the report. The trial begins next week.
A group of Palestinians launched a moderate, Islamic movement calling for negotiated agreement with Israel and a democratic society. The movement's founder, Professor Mohammed Dajani (pictured), talked to the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Wasatia is a term from the Quran which means 'centrism,' 'balance' or 'moderation,' " Dajani said. "The new party will foster a culture of moderation and attract Palestinian voters who are moderate in their religious beliefs. The existing Palestinian Islamic parties breed radicalism and fundamentalism."
Dajani said that Wasatia will spend the next year building itself as a movement, undertaking voluntary work, creating new jobs and economic opportunities.
"Charity and voluntarism -- this is Islam," he said. "The creation of new jobs does not have to be related to arms and violence."
Can Wassatia prevail? Is this too good to be true?
Al-Hurra, the US-funded TV station competing with Al-Jazeera for the hearts and minds of Arab viewers, now "panders to Arab sympathies," thanks to the hiring of former CNN producer Larry Register. Joel Mowbray explains:
Within weeks of becoming news director, Mr. Register put his own stamp on the network. Producers and on-air talent quickly understood that change was underway. Investigations into Arab government wrongdoing or oppression were no longer in vogue, and the ban on turning the airwaves over to terrorists was lifted. For those who had chafed under Mr. Register's predecessor--who curbed the desire of many on staff to make Al-Hurra more like al-Jazeera--the new era was welcomed warmly.
"Everybody feels emboldened. Register changed the atmosphere around here," notes one staffer. "Register is trying to pander to Arab sympathies," says another....
At a staff meeting announcing the reversal of the ban on terrorists as guests, Mr. Register "bragged" about his personal relationship with Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas official, according to someone who was present. Contacted on his cell phone for comment, Mr. Register declined, indicating that he couldn't spare even two minutes anytime in the coming days.
Perhaps it is because Mr. Register is so casual in his attitude to terrorists that interviewers now toss softball questions to fiery anti-Western guests, while also taking digs at one of America's closest Middle Eastern allies, Israel.
Mowbray also castigates Al-Hurra's coverage of Mughrabi Gate and decisions to air sermons by Hassan Nasrallah and Ikrima Sabri.
The Harvard Crimson reports that Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are writing a book. Care to guess the topic?
Two leading political scientists are writing a book extending their controversial argument that the domestic pro-Israel lobby bends U.S. foreign policy disproportionately in favor of Israel, one of the authors, Stephen M. Walt of the Kennedy School of Government, confirmed yesterday....
The forthcoming book will be published by New York-based Farrar, Straus and Giroux and is due out in September, according to Walt, who declined to answer other questions about the book. Mearsheimer did not respond to phone calls to his office in Chicago.
* See the Opinion Journal, where Khaled Abu Toameh discusses the state of the PA:
Neither the president nor the prime minister openly called for an end to terrorism or for recognizing Israel's right to exist. And to add to the confusion, the two men came up with a political program that contains many contradictions and ambiguities.
The wording of the program was drafted in such a way as to allow both Hamas and Fatah to argue that neither party had totally abandoned its traditional position. The equivocal tone is also designed to appease the Americans and Europeans. After all, the main goal of the new coalition is to get the international community to resume desperately needed financial aid.
* Pajamas Media's Allison Kaplan Sommer contemplates the likelihood of another Mideast war this spring.
Kidnapped Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo (pictured) was freed after two weeks in captivity. The Times of London reports that Mastrogiacomo’s freedom came at cost now reverberating in Rome and Afghanistan: the release of five senior Taliban figures from a Kabul prison:
But there was strong condemnation of the agreement, with critics accusing the Afghan and Italian governments of negotiating with terrorists.
For the British government, negotiating with Palestinian terrorists for Alan Johnston’s freedom is easier since the the BBC has already convinced viewers they're dealing with "militants."
What does Israel have to go with the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe (pictured) is literally bashing opponents? Times of London reporter Jan Raath found a curious angle:
Tension built in Harare’s townships yesterday, with doctors reporting a constant stream of people with severe injuries inflicted by police during the illegal curfew imposed over the city’s poor areas. In Highfield, south of the city, Israeli-made water cannon trucks patrolled the streets.
Israel is no friend of Mugabe, who once accused Jews of conspiring against Zimbabwean businesses. Like many other African tyrants, he probably acquired second-hand weapons made in every corner of the globe.
See 18 Doughty Street for a thoughtful, in-depth interview with Israeli spokesman Mark Regev (pictured). Issues discussed include media coverage, relations with the PA, the war in Lebanon, Iran's nuclear threat, and more.
After Hamas claimed responsibility for shooting Kobi Ohion, an Israeli utility worker at the Karni Crossing, AP came up with this headline:
Hamas Shooting Embarrasses Palestinians
This headline misses the point. The sniper fire isn't inconsistent with the unity government's guidelines, which "affirms that resistance is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people." And Hamas was quick to take credit for the attack. In a society where blowing up Israelis makes for great public opinion, Hamas is anything but red-faced. Had Ohion been killed, the Palestinian media would've been full of different looking smileys.
Compared to Khaled Meshaal, PM Ismail Haniyeh is a “moderate face” for Hamas. But make no mistake, Haniyah shares the Hamas covenant's goal of destroying Israel. After Hamas claimed responsibility for shooting an Israeli and trying to send a suicide bomber from Egypt, NY Times suggests the terror organization can be divided into pragmatists and militants.
The events highlighted the discord that has become apparent between more pragmatic local leaders of Hamas, like Mr. Haniya, and the militants who are said to take orders from the leadership in exile led by Khaled Meshal. In his inaugural speech before the Palestinian parliament on Saturday, Mr. Haniya said Palestinians had a “legitimate right” to resist occupation “by all means.” But he also said his new government wanted to consolidate the current truce with Israel and expand it from Gaza to include the West Bank.
If Meshaal’s calling the shots, why should Israel negotiate with Haniyah, as George Soros, The Guardian, and others suggest?
Haaretz reports that Egypt arrested a would-be suicide bomber trying to enter Israel. Salah Adnan Saleh Abdel-Salam told Egyptian interrogators Hamas was going to provide him with a bomb belt and instructions for crossing into Israel. The Hamas-Fatah unity government supports resistance.
Hamas is taking credit for shooting an Israeli electrical worker at the Karni Crossing. Haaretz writes:
"The [Hamas] Qassam Brigades announced its responsiblity for shooting a Zionist [Israeli] and firing two mortar bombs against a gathering of Zionist soldiers near Karni crossing," the statement said. "Our strikes against the enemy will continue," it added.
Look closely at AFP considers a "hard line" on Hamas:
The United States on Sunday said it will deal with the new Palestinian government only if it agrees to forgo violence and fully recognize Israel.
US national security adviser Stephen Hadley laid down that hard line in remarks on US television, after Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, in a speech to parliament, insisted on his new government's right to all forms of resistance, rejecting a key international condition for acceptance.
"This government needs to renounce terror and violence," Hadley told CNN.
Why are Hadley's comments -- which reflect the position of the Quartet -- described as hardline, while Haniyah's "right to all forms of resistance" pass with out AFP's judgment?
A confirmation of pro-Palestinian bias doesn't get more official than this declaration by the PA's new Information Minister, Mustafa Barghouti. Speaking about the kidnapping of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, Barghouti, was quoted in the Jerusalem Post saying:
"We are opposed to the kidnapping of foreign journalists who serve the Palestinian cause," he added.
The BBC's Matthew Price says that while Mr Haniya's speech will not go far enough for Israel, it is important that a senior member of Hamas has again called for the establishment of a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel since 1967.
Our correspondent says that some see this as an implicit recognition of Israel's existence.
Historically, Haniya's Hamas party's use of the term "occupation" does not only refer to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and, previously, Gaza. The group uses the term to characterize Israel's existence, contending that the Jewish state occupies the Palestinian territories.
Brian Sewell, an art critic for the Evening Standard got himself in hot water with Holocaust surivivors for an article about a London exhibition commemorating slavery. In the middle of his 1,800 word article, Sewell writes:
The historical slave trade was a business at least as appalling as the Holocaust, with many, many, more victims, and like the Holocaust its memory has been hijacked by the descendants of those victims and turned into a scourge with which to whip guilt into society.
The Evening Standard's managing editor, Doug Wills, told the European Jewish Press that Sewell's critics took the sentence out of context.
Palestinian kids are actively choosing to do time in Israeli prison because it's better than life at home. In many instances, parents are complicit, eager to collect benefits from the PA. The Times of London writes:
He had heard about jail from friends at school who had already done time. There was digital television, organised sports, access to books and regular meals, they told him....
At the checkpoint he flashed his knife and was taken into custody. After several days of interrogation he landed in al-Naqab, an Israeli military jail in the Negev. Life in prison exceeded his expectations. "I played table tennis and basketball every day. Three of my best friends were there from Nablus. We ate eggs for breakfast. At night we would stay up late and read. I miss it," he said.
He was delighted at his trial when a judge handed him a seven-month sentence.
A landmark coalition government uniting rival factions took power on Saturday....
No matter who the faces are sitting around the cabinet table, Hamas calls the shots. MSM should just hold back on the superlatives until Hamas recognizes Israel's right to exist, renounce terror and accepts previous peace agreements.
See the NY Times, where Professor Frank Stewart slams BBC plans for an Arab-language TV channel:
This new television station might sound like good news for America. Many of us pick up BBC broadcasts in English, and we respect their quality. But the World Service in English is one thing, and the World Service in Arabic is another entirely. If the BBC’s Arabic TV programs resemble its radio programs, then they will be just as anti-Western as anything that comes out of the Gulf, if not more so. They will serve to increase, rather than to diminish, tensions, hostilities and misunderstandings among nations.
Tom Gross picks up on Palestinian and BBC acknowledgment of Alan Johnston's biased coverage:
Impartial observers have long recognized that Johnston is particularly anti-Israeli in his reporting. But now the BBC has acknowledged his bias too. The BBC website, in an article about their kidnapped correspondent, includes a quote from BBC diplomatic editor Paul Adams confirming that Johnston wasn’t interested in presenting the Israeli side, but it was “his job to bring us day after day reports of the Palestinian predicament.”
The Nablus TV news agency also acknowledges this. In a report specially located and translated for this website / email list, it says: “The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate has issued a call to release Johnston as soon as possible, saying Johnston must not be hurt as he is famous for his opinions which are supportive of the Palestinians.”
The Johannesburg Star reports that Dr. Snuki Zikalala got away with a "verbal warning" for blacklisting reporters from the South African Broadcasting Corp. Zikalala is the SABC's director of news and our honored Worst News Executive of 2006. The Star writes:
"The board had decided that he should be given a verbal warning jointly by the group's CEO and the chairman of the board … that he be instructed to co-operate in the remedial steps recommended by the commission, and that he be warned that should the conduct in question be found to occur in future, stronger action will be taken," said Padayachie.
Most reporters and analysts were banned for their views on South African politics, but Paula Slier found herself blacklisted because her coverage of the Mideast conflict crossed Zikalala's red lines. He wrote in a memo last year:
From the movement where I come from, we support PLO. But she supported what?s happening in Israel?. I said no, you can't you can't undermine the Palestinian struggle, you can't. For me it's a principle issue.